Advocates question Biden administration’s promise to address environmental injustice while supporting fossil fuel projects



WASHINGTON—Environmental justice advocates sharply criticized the Biden administration for approving new liquefied natural gas export terminals on the Gulf Coast in Louisiana and Texas at the Department of Energy’s 2023 Justice Week Conference on Wednesday. said pollution from fossil fuel facilities would further put disadvantaged people at risk. community.

At the same time, across town at the White House, Brenda Mallory, chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, said on a conference call with community groups and reporters that about 470 federal programs are being implemented at billions of dollars a year. He said that it has been done. Reimagined and transformed to achieve the goals of Justice40 and maximize benefits to disadvantaged communities. ”

Justice 40 is President Biden’s policy established by executive order to direct 40% of new environmental and energy investments to “disadvantaged communities that have been historically marginalized and overburdened by pollution and underinvestment.” It means directing towards.

Mallory was joined on the call by Tony Reames, principal deputy director of the Department of Energy’s Office of State and Regional Energy Programs, who said the department is working to reduce energy loads, reduce environmental exposure, and equalize access to clean energy technologies. from Detroit, and is working to improve parity of access to the Department of Energy’s energy programs. Recruitment in the environmental justice community.

But DOE officials heard from activists on a community voice panel at the department’s Justice Week meeting and decided to approve a new export permit for Energy Transfer’s Lake Charles LNG project in southwest Louisiana. He pointed out that he was ready to give. LNG export terminal in Texas.

“The Biden administration is speaking from both sides of the aisle,” said Roishetta Ozene, a fossil fuel funding activist with the Texas Environmental Campaign. “They say they care about frontline communities and environmental justice communities, but they still don’t care about the fact that the air we breathe is making us sick, causing asthma and skin diseases. I’m not working on it.”

Ozane added that these LNG facilities disproportionately harm communities of color and low-income neighborhoods and contribute to climate change. “DOE needs to reevaluate its approval process and demonstrate a true commitment to environmental justice. Enough is enough,” she said.

John Beard, Founder and Director of The Port Arthur Community Action Network called on officials to stop pursuing large-scale pollution projects in marginalized communities of color. “The DOE says it is committed to promoting environmental justice in all its activities. Nevertheless, the agency is denying export permits to methane gas export terminals and explosive carbon bombs in low-income communities and communities of color. “It keeps on giving,” he said.

Advocates also called on the Department of Energy to halt investments in hydrogen hubs, carbon capture and sequestration technology at refineries and utilities, and direct atmospheric carbon capture technology aimed at sucking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. He called all of this a “dangerous distraction.”

Producing hydrogen requires a lot of energy, which “makes our children sick, pollutes our air, and makes us less safe, while allowing Big Oil and Gas to make more profits and helping us fight climate change.” The impact will be even worse,” Beard said. “Biden and the Department of Energy must immediately halt further expansion of hydrogen and export facilities, eradicate air pollution, and restore devastated communities. This is the only solution.”

In a call with community groups and reporters, Reames said $6 billion from his administration’s 2021 Infrastructure Act will go toward everything from environmental justice district training and assessment centers to renewable energy career skills training. . He said the funds will also provide funding to nonprofits working on building renovations, energy-efficient school retrofit programs, state energy offices and home weatherization assistance programs.

He said an additional $10 billion under the Inflation Control Act of 2022 will fund home efficiency rebates for electrification and appliance replacement, training for residential energy contractors and support for building codes. he added.

Mallory said Justice 40 would “provide specific federal climate, clean energy, affordable and sustainable housing, and “The president’s commitment to transportation and other investments.”

Mallory emphasized that environmental justice considerations are in the DNA of federal agencies, including $55 billion to expand access to clean drinking water, $21 billion to clean up legacy pollution, and $66 billion to expand access to clean drinking water. He said dollars were made available to build clean and accessible transportation.

“All of this is due to bipartisan infrastructure legislation,” she said, adding new federal environmental justice legislation to reduce pollution, accelerate clean energy deployment, and protect communities from fires, floods, and storms. It added that a subsidy program had been established.

Mr. Mallory and Mr. Reams are both nonprofits that have supported more than 100 community groups and secured approximately $43 million in federal funding for clean energy, greenhouse gas emissions reduction, and workforce training projects since 2021.・He praised the “accelerator” of Justice 40, which is made up of for-profit organizations. Also in other fields.

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Sacoby Wilson, director of the University of Maryland’s Center for Community Engagement, Environmental Justice, and Health (CEEJH), said in an interview after the conference call that promoting dirty LNG infrastructure while committing to energy justice for communities is a “step forward.” He said that it corresponds to the policy of Then take two steps back. ”

He said dirty fossil fuel infrastructure is still part of the Suppressing Inflation Act, the administration’s flagship climate bill. “Some of this language around energy infrastructure was focused on supporting dirty energy rather than clean energy infrastructure. How are you going to promote energy justice when by supporting energy justice you are also supporting energy injustice?” Wilson said. “It makes no sense. In my opinion, it’s actually a form of insanity.”

Wilson said giving political weight to fossil fuel export facilities amounts to undermining the spirit of Justice 40 and significantly reduces the benefits the Biden administration hopes to provide to disadvantaged communities with this historic funding. He said that it would be reduced to “The true energy justice promised by the Justice40 initiative is tied to clean energy projects, not dirty fossil fuel projects,” he said. “Otherwise, you wouldn’t get the same benefits of scale.”

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